Protecting workers

This document provides information to help you:

  • understand more about screening for COVID‑19 at your workplace
  • make decisions about the use of rapid antigen screening in your workplace

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), employers must take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances to protect the health and safety of workers. This includes protecting workers from hazards posed by infectious diseases like COVID‑19.

Read the guide on developing a COVID‑19 workplace safety plan to:

  • help you understand the risks related to COVID‑19 in your workplace
  • develop control measures
  • identify concrete actions you will take to make your workplace safer

You can use the workplace safety plan builder to help create your COVID-19 workplace safety. All employers are encouraged to review and update their safety plan regularly.

Screening to help reduce transmission

Because screening helps keep infected workers and others from entering the workplace, it can help to reduce possible transmission at work. Screening cannot rule out the possibility that a person is infectious with COVID‑19.

As an employer, you should continue to use a variety of measures to control potential exposure to COVID‑19 in your workplace. These may include:

  • reducing in-person interactions, for example, having workers who are able to work from home
  • using control measures such as masking to decrease the risk of exposure in the workplace

Make sure all workers know:

  • to stay home if they have symptoms that are new or unexplained (for example, not caused by an existing condition)
  • how they can access job and financial supports that are available to them

Types of screening

Question-based screening

This type of screening involves questions about symptoms and exposures. The answers are used to determine if a person is more likely to be infected.

A person has passed question-based screening if they have none of the symptoms or exposures asked about in the screening tool.

Question-based screening may be done in-person or remotely. Some ways of screening include:

  • telephone
  • web tool or app
  • email
  • paper-based
  • post signs with clear instructions at all entrances that tell people how to screen themselves

Rapid antigen screening

This screening method involves collection of a sample from an individual that is analysed to see if it contains proteins from the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

A person has passed rapid antigen screening if they get a negative result on the rapid antigen test. Individuals with a positive result obtained through a rapid antigen screening do not require a PCR test to confirm the result.

If you use rapid antigen screening at your workplace, you must follow the Ministry of Health requirements.

Rapid antigen screening may be used for anyone who is fully vaccinated or not fully vaccinated.

Worker self-monitoring

Encourage workers to monitor their own symptoms at all times, including while at work. You should:

  • ensure workers know what to do if they start to experience symptoms at work
  • let workers know where to find the online COVID‑19 self-assessment tool
  • ask workers to use the self-assessment tool at home if they have any symptoms and to follow the instructions
  • make sure workers know who their workplace contact is and how to get in touch with them in case the self-assessment, public health or their health care provider tells the worker to stay home

Screening results and next steps

If a person does not pass screening because they have one or more of the symptoms or exposures asked about in the screening tool, or get a positive result on a rapid antigen test, they generally:

  • should not enter the workplace at that time
  • should stay home

People may seek medical advice by contacting their health care provider or visit Health811 online.

Everyone must follow any directions they are given by public health officials.

Employers should only allow workers to enter the workplace if they have passed all parts of the screening being used.

If a person passes the screening — meaning they have none of the symptoms or exposures asked about in question-based screening, and get a negative result on a rapid antigen test, if used — they generally:

  • may enter the workplace at that time
  • should continue to follow any public health and workplace control measures such as wearing a mask where required
  • should continue to self-monitor for new symptoms
  • should follow their workplace’s reporting procedure, if they are a worker and develop symptoms during their shift

If available, provide information to workers about a potential exposure and where it took place. Don’t give out information that will identify the infectious person.

Having a system in place to help keep track of which people had close interactions with an affected worker can help you identify who may have been exposed if someone in your workplace develops symptoms or tests positive for COVID-19.

Other considerations for rapid antigen screening

Employers using rapid antigen screening should develop a policy related to COVID‑19 testing. This should be based on independent legal advice, which may include recommendations on issues of:

  • human rights and accessibility
  • labour and employment law
  • privacy
  • health care consent
  • occupational health and safety

The OHSA and the Employment Standards Act (ESA) and their respective regulations do not address mandatory testing of workers by employers. There may be other statutes and considerations that apply to a mandatory testing policy in workplaces.

This document does not replace the OHSA or the ESA and their regulations or any other legal requirements and should not be used as or considered legal advice. Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development inspectors and officers apply the law based on the facts in the workplace.